Searching, working, and attempting to gain power is in the writer’s opinion, pathetic. Yearning for power is a waste of time. A truly powerful person, to quote Tywin Lannister (or George R.R. Martin), does not need to say “I am the king.”

“I am in charge here” as a statement is an automatic signal of vulnerability. Indeed, as Machiavelli wrote to the prince about the dynamics of power, he wrote it full well knowing he was mocking the prince and those who thought as he. Machiavelli wrote his words as satire. The prince on the other hand, full well believed Machiavelli was right and wise. The prince on the was too dull of a blade to understand a slap in the face when he read one.

A social studies teacher and his student were speaking together one day. The student was worried about dictatorship in the west. The social studies teacher simply replied “Even if someone did attempt to become a dictator in either the US or Canada, they just wouldn’t be recognized by the public.”

This of course, gave the student an insight into what power actually is.

A false sense of power is achieved through insult and coercion. A false sense of power is achieved through seemingly disempowering someone else considered vulnerable. If the ingroup has one member of the outgroup nearby, the ingroup will attempt to disempower that person. This is a false sense of power of course. This false sense of empowerment seems to pervade society.

Where people see a gang being scary and tough, upon closer inspection, one could observe a group of scared individuals who support one another and feel stronger together.

Alone, each individual might be terrified.

A bureaucrat who enjoys telling the person seeking service may revel in their false sense of power and authority. The bureaucrat may say “I can’t release the document you need until document 4051-9 is signed and notarized” and as the service seeker dejectedly returns to find the correct paperwork, the bureaucrat licks their lips at another wasted afternoon.

In the writer’s opinion, bureaucracies can and should be automated.

In a human context, a display of power can and should be viewed as weakness. In the study titled “Authorities’ Coercive and Legitimate Power: The Impact on Cognitions Underlying Cooperation” two concepts of power are defined as “coercive power” and “legitimate power.” Coercive power being antagonistic and coercive on part of the authorities in the study, and legitimate power being based on reasoning and knowledge of said authorities. In the study, the conductors write: “Power is conceptualized as the capacity of an organization or person to influence another parties’ behavior.” The study analyzes behaviours and power dynamics between authorities and the general public who cooperate with them. The study asks the participants of their willingness to engage in a taxation system of a fictitious country. The conductors of the study also seek to apply their findings to the broader scope of social behaviour in the real world. The conductors came to interesting and pertinent conclusions as they write “Findings reveal that coercive power increases an antagonistic climate and enforced compliance, whereas legitimate power increases reason-based trust, a service climate, and voluntary cooperation. Unexpectedly, legitimate power is additionally having a negative effect on an antagonistic climate and a positive effect on enforced compliance; these findings lead to a modification of theoretical assumptions.”

That is to say, when dealing with others, if power is exercised with dominance and antagonism, much like in a totalitarian state, people would cooperate grudgingly if threatened by coercion. If power is exercised by authorities who are viewed as knowlegable and trustworthy, then people cooperate willfully with implicit trust in those who are then consensually regarded as powerful simply by being in high esteem. As can be read further the conductors write “coercive power damages implicit trust…as coercion signals authorities’ distrust, it may weaken affective and social bonds with authorities, thereby interrupting habitual and implicit cooperation…Legitimate power, on the other hand, strengthens trust…when authorities are perceived as knowledgeable and legitimate in their position, reason-based trust increases.”

In the writer’s experience, truly powerful people are more concerned with the universe, and how they themselves fit into it. Truly powerful people spend their time building other people up, and seek to create a better world for those around them. They seek to leave a better world behind them for those who are coming after.

Truly powerful people have no time to play insecure Machiavellian political games of dominance. They are too busy working toward meaningful ends.

The most powerful person the writer has ever met, was a little old lady who spent her life as a Nun. She spoke to the writer, while visiting in her office: “Once you are aware, you cannot be unaware. Can you sit there and say ‘I am’ without adding anything to it? Instead of saying I am a son, I am a student, I am a human, or I am whatever your job is…just sit there and say ‘I am.”

For whatever it is worth to the reader, she was powerful because she lived her life rejecting whatever false senses of power this world gives us. She was powerful, because all she owned were the two words:

“I am.”

The study can be found in the following link, if that doesn’t work, there is the citation available thereafter.


Hofmann, E., Hartl, B., Gangl, K., Hartner-Tiefenthaler, M., & Kirchler, E. (2017). Authorities’ Coercive and Legitimate Power: The Impact on Cognitions Underlying Cooperation. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 5.


One thought on “The Exercise of Power

  1. We may consider that some leaders are narcissistic to some degree. But as we know, there are leaders that embrace what we consider democratic and humanistic principles; and leaders that pursue power per se.

    If perception triggers, first, the emotions, and emotions (according to Damasio) are the basis of cognitions; leaders that activate, through his narrative, hate, anger, resentment, revenge, victimisation, etc., they are at the same time triggering the basic emotions’ neuro-pathways of his followers. As a result, antisocial behaviours are activated.

    Typically antisocial behaviours are “ruthlessness, narcissism, hostility, manipulation, and sensation-seeking,, Wawda et al, (2016). The population mirrors the unconscious (implicit) leaders emotions¡. When the emotions are anger and fear, they are “PROJECTED” onto the public.

    Wawda et al, (2016) observed abnormal neural processing and different brain structure in persons with anti-social behaviours. The brain abnormalities observed are in the prefrontal cortex (PFT) and they demonstrated a lower Grey Matter; and abnormal subcortical regions as ventromedial prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. However, the Grey Matter (GM) of “successful” psychopaths and non-psychopaths¨ did not differ in the volume of GM, Yang et al, (2005) in Wawda et al, (2016). Antisocial individuals can be pretty intelligent. How they use their intelligence is another issue.

    Another interesting subject is how the neuroscience had been used in the last decades in other fields. Neuroleadership, neuroethics, neuro-politics, neuro-economics, neuro-education, neuro-law, neuro-aesthetics, and so on. Have you noticed how many subfields use the science of the brain as a tool? What does this mean?

    Sententia, codirector of the Center for Cognitive lLiberty and ethics, have brought the following questions to the neuroscience field: Does politics employ brain research instrumentally? Do we have to implement a legal and ethical notion of “cognitive liberty”?, Wrye Sententia, (2004).

    Damasio Antionio, (1999). El Error de Descartes. La razón de las emociones. Editorial Andres Bello. Chile.

    Gawda B., Bernacka R., Gawda A., (2016). The Neural Mechanisms Underlying Personality Disorders. NeuroQuantology. DOI:10.14704/nq.20016.14.948

    Sententia Wrye, October 29, 2004 — Washington D.C. Conference held by the Center for Bioethics & Culture, the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future, and the International Center for Technology Assessment.


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